03 May 2012

The Shooting Of Brandy Martell: Whether Or Not It's Hate, It's Still A Crime

Some people--conservatives, mainly--that there should not be a separate legal category of "hate crimes."  They argue that all crimes are "hate crimes" because, in their definition, all crimes are acts of hate.

They might be right.  However, I would say that "transgression" is a more accurate word than "crime" to describe an act of hate, simply because "crime" is a legal definition.  Also, not all crimes are committed against people or other living things, and people usually act out of hate only against animate beings.

But there is one good reason to have a separate legal definition, and set of penalties, for hate crimes.  Some people are targeted for such crimes simply for being who they are.  If everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then crimes that deny people those rights (especially for reasons that are not of their own making) should be considered exceptional, or at least different, from others.

The tricky part, of course, comes when police officers, lawyers, juries and judges have to determine whether or not a rape, beating or killing was motivated by a person's identity--whether by race, sexual orientation, gender manifestation, ethnicity--or was simply the result of a robbery or other crime gone wrong.

Such is the case of Brandy Martell, who lived in the San Francisco Bay community of Hayward.  She was in the driver's seat of a car she and three other transgendered women rode into Oakland on Sunday morning.  Three men had approached them and there ensued an argument that ended with the shooting death of Ms. Martell.

Her friends say she was targeted because of her identity.  Although I know nothing more about her or the case than what I've seen in news reports, I'd be inclined to believe it.  However, I cannot be certain.

Whatever his motives, I hope that Ms. Martell's shooter is brought to justice.  Too often, those who attack and kill transgender people aren't.

No comments: